Province planning future transportation strategy
Province: Plan to guide future infrastructure decision
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am
Whether it’s more freeways, commuter transit, high-speed rail or even toll-roads, the provincial government is working on long-term plans to guide how Albertans get around in the next 50 years.
The Province is in the process of developing a long-term strategy to guide the development of the provincial transportation network to not only guide how people get from one community to another, but also to environmental impacts and improving access to markets for goods and materials produced in Alberta.
“It’s not about local projects or small decisions it’s long-term, forward thinking for a transportation strategy, one that can help guide transportation investments, policies and future programs,” said Alberta Transportation David Hennig.
As part of the process, the provincial government is now going out to Albertans to get their opinion on what they would like to see in the plan. The Province will host a series of meetings in 18 communities across Alberta, with one in Calgary on Feb. 19 at the Ramada Inn on Stephen Avenue. Once the meetings are completed, the Province will then hold an online survey for people who were not able to attend the meetings to respond.
Foothills leaders have a few their own thoughts on what needs to be in the Province’s long-term plan.
Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson said the Province needs to consider transit in its long-term transportation plans, not just for large centres like Calgary, but for smaller communities like Okotoks.
“It makes the world a lot smaller and a lot more efficient when we have transit,” he said.
The Province needs to make it easier to connect from one mode of transportation to another, he said. For example, Robertson would like to see an LRT station at the Calgary International Airport. If the LRT was also integrated with regional commuter transit, he said it would make it easier for people to travel around the region.
Foothills MD Reeve Larry Spilak said transit isn’t as much of an issue in the rural areas.
He said the wants the Province to clarify how roads in the foothills will connect with the southwest Calgary ring road once it’s complete.
“That’s the most important part of our planning right now because we have to prepare for that,” he said. “It’s very important because it will dictate that whole transportation corridor in the northwest part of our MD.”
Hennig said a world-class transportation system is essential for building a strong economy in Alberta.
“We’re an exporting province, it’s so essential to our economic growth, we’re going to make sure we have that competitiveness and market access continues,” he said.
Hennig said the Province isn’t looking at specific projects at this point, such as adding a third lane to Highway 2 or widening other roads in the foothills. Rather, he said it is looking at strategies to guide decisions on new projects.
“What should our transportation system look like 50 years down in the future, what are different ways to connect communities,” he said. “It’s not just about roads, it involves all of the different modes of transportation. It involves planes, railways, getting our products to port, public transit, options for walking or cycling.”
One key question that will come up as part of the process is how future transportation initiatives will be paid for, including whether new taxes and tolls would be needed or supported.
“I think that will be a big part of the discussion to say what are the options, what will be acceptable to Albertans,” said Hennig.
He said the consultation will also look at transit and look at Albertans’ interest in seeing more commuter transit into major urban centres from outlying areas. He said he expects the long-simmering proposal for a high-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton.
“That’s probably something that’s going to be looked at, is it realistic, is it affordable, is it feasible,” he said.
The results of the consultation process will be compiled into a report that will include a number of potential recommendations and steps for the Province to act on.